Wednesday, May 30, 2018



We are staying with our weekly focus, and this week we are looking closely at Phase 2 guys. These are guys who have decided that they aren't gay and don't want to be gay. They want to make the change to a straight identity and life. There are ten steps, in no ironclad order, that I laid out in this link. In previous links this week I have also talked about the importance of going to the doctor and getting checked out so you know whether you are HIV+ and can get treatment if you need to get clean. Also, you need to prepare yourself for your mental-health needs and get the doctor's clearance on rigorous exercise.

One of the ten steps in Phase 2 is also saying your goodbyes to the gay community. Different people have different views on this topic. Some say that you should be careful not to burn your bridges. Others who have experience with alcoholism emphasize that you have to make a clean break so you can move forward without being placed around the things that will suggest to you a return back to being gay.

I will assume that for most of you, cutting ties to the gay community means a lot of hours that were busy will suddenly be empty and you will confront boredom and loneliness, as well as restlessness. I suggested these ten ideas in my "Serve and Disciple" post as ways to combat restlessness. Fill your time with service and improvement activities, which will also help you make new friends. Go slow with new friends, but be open to them.

We are social beings by nature and loneliness is almost always our enemy. So this is going to be difficult if most of your friends are gay and especially if your job is tied up with gay things. If you really want to go straight, you are going to experience some heavy sadness as you cut your ties to the gay community. It might mean moving to a new neighborhood and looking for a new job. For me it meant moving 420 miles away from where I was living and starting grad school in a new city.

Think of this step as being a class act. You don't want to vanish and flake on everyone. If you owe someone in the gay community 50 bucks, pay it back. But if one of them owes you 50 bucks, forgive the debt. You can't force others to forgive you but you can choose to forgive others. Do what you know is right and proper with regards to your friends in the gay world, but do not get stuck waiting for them to set things right on their end. If you do the latter, you will never get out of Phase 2.

Personally, here is what I did. I called each friend from the gay scene and told them I felt I had gone through a lot of changes. I needed some time to change things in my life and would be happy if I could move forward knowing they supported me. But I said I understood if they couldn't support what I was doing. In other words, I was honest.

One important perk comes with honesty. If you have told your gay friends that you are giving up gay sex, then the fear of losing face will boost your efforts to abstain. Knowing that one of the gay friends who spoke to you might catch you if you backslide, you benefit from knowing that embarrassment discourages you from going back to familiar places looking to hook up with guys again. The more open you are, the more the larger social context can keep you in check. I made many more mistakes when I was hiding my gay past from friends around me. When I "came out" as someone with a gay history in 2012, largely because I had to, with the publication of an article in Public Discourse that I knew would circulate, I found myself completely liberated from any temptation of doing anything remotely sexual with guys. The publicity surrounding the article and the massive attacks from gay writers and people in the community were so shocking, I was forced to see that if I even popped into a gay bar ("oh, I'm just going to go in there for a few minutes, I promise I won't do anything bad"), I risked huge embarrassment. The Lord works on us, sometimes, in ways you cannot understand. Being public and open with the gay community about the fact that you have a history with them but are now in exile--that may, in many cases, keep you on the straight and narrow path.

At this step, you are committing to the idea that you will not have gay sex again. You may slip up and backslide at some point; if you do, you will get back up and start over. But mentally you are changing yourself so you do not go through life thinking gay sex is an option. 

In order to say goodbye to gay sex, you have to remove yourself from environments where everyone assumes that gay sex is the natural and normal result of feeling warm feelings about other men. You will come across men that make you feel affectionate in the future, but you have to cut the link between "I like this guy" and "I'm going to touch this guy." That link is the fatal chain that keeps you stuck in the gay world.

The more that time passes since the last moment you had gay sex, the weaker that link will get, and the freer you will feel. This takes a lot of time. But aside from actually having sex, one thing that makes that deadly chain stronger is hearing the words of, and being around, lots of people who think that there is no way to like a guy without wanting to touch him sexually. And you cannot fight against the entire gay community or try to refashion each of your friends into what you want them to be. They live in a culture that rewarded them for jumping from liking a guy to sleeping with him. The words and actions they engage in, alone, will keep you chained to your old self, which you have to put to rest.

As I explain in the video, you still need to take their calls if they call you. And if you find the loneliness is going to cause you a massive crisis, you will not benefit from having been a jerk and burned all your bridges to your old friends. So you want to be classy but put some distance between you and them. You do not want to say ugly things. You should tell them honestly what you are doing so they do not have some "secret" they are going to burn you with. Give them a chance to say they support you--a lot of them will tell you that, and some will understand.

Be nice if they call you, but don't get caught up in a lot of phone calls with them or talking for a lot of time. If they need you to meet with them and help them, try to meet them somewhere public that isn't a gay-tagged place. Some gay friends will find you more attractive as you start cleaning up your life, and may legitimately feel renewed sexual attraction to you. If you meet in a public place like a café you lessen the emotional danger to both of you. And don't make it a constant habit of meeting with them.

Some of you may be in gay relationships, and this, I cannot help with, unfortunately. I know breaking up is difficult in any case but it will be a lot harder to break up with a guy in the same conversation that you are telling him you are leaving the gay community. If you are living with him, you have to go very slowly with this step because you have to give yourself time to look for a new apartment and start over. But you should have a decent, fair breakup with your lover. I think telling him you don't think you're gay anymore may lessen the hurt because it's not about him, it's about the fact that he's a man. The problem is that in many such cases a man who has had a lot of sex with you is going to be harsh and dismissive about your plans to go straight. You are weighing two prerogatives here. On the one hand you have to be a good person and do things right. On the other hand you have to free yourself from this.

The more intense and established your gay relationship was, the less I can help you. I did not have any "relationships" beyond a week or two when I was in the gay community. Generally I perceived that breakups are fairly common and gay men have so many options that it is not such a crushing blow to be told someone is leaving you. But obviously it is going to be very painful. You have to do what you have determined is the path you want in life. But you do not want to hurt other people. Find a nice way to do this.

If you actually got married to a man, I have no idea what to do next. You will need to get a divorce and that's expensive and complicated. I will see if someone can guest-write a column on that.

If you adopted children with another man, I am not a good person to be giving you counsel because that's an issue I feel too passionately about. I don't want you to remain in a sinful life that makes you miserable, but I have to imagine that God wants you to make sure those beautiful children don't have to suffer through the upheaval and uprooting because you have decided to start over. I ask you to pray about what to do and see if there is a way you can stay with your gay spouse to raise the kids but not have to have sex with him.

My video explains a little more.